Blog: Brock Lesnar’s return brings back feelings of battle
Apr 4, 2012 - by Mike McMahon
Brock Lesnar’s return wasn’t your typical wresting reunion. It was the homecoming of an athlete who has been kicking WWE’s butt in the pay-per-view business since he unceremoniously bolted the company after Wrestlemania 20.
Lesnar’s return had a much different feel than recent big-name comebacks. It had a different crowd reaction than Chris Jericho’s and even The Rock’s.
It felt like WWE was in a war again. Not a single mention of Lesnar’s UFC success was touted by Michael Cole as he made his way down the ramp. Instead, Cole mentioned Lesnar’s success in WWE as a former champion. It was a nice introduction to fans who joined the product post-2004, but Cole ignored the giant elephant in the room.
It’s the same thing that would have happened in the late-90s, if a former WCW champion jumped ship and appeared on Raw. Was Big Show’s WCW success touted when he debuted at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1999? What about when Chris Jericho debuted on Raw in Chicago?
There may have been little insider hints — even jabs at the opposition — but never was WCW success mentioned by name when putting over a new talent, especially when WWE was behind.
There were minor mentions when Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn all jumped, together, in 2000. But at that point, WWE was in control of the Monday Night Wars.
Vince McMahon can say WWE “makes movies,” and their competition is Hollywood and big-budget television dramas. But Lesnar’s return on Monday proves, at least to me, that UFC is viewed as competition.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has followed professional wrestling the last decade. Buyrates and ratings have consistently dwindled while UFC has dominated the pay-per-view market.
What’s surprising is that WWE, at least passively, is acknowledging it.
WWE isn’t just bringing back a former star, they’re bringing back Brock Lesnar. They’re bringing back the guy who has been kicking their butt.
But will it help?
Will MMA fans tune into pro wrestling simply because Brock Lesnar is on the show? That’s where I believe the logic is flawed. Lesnar’s mega buyrates on pay-per-view, in my opinion, weren’t the product of additional MMA fans buying the product. UFC has its core audience of a few hundred thousand people that buy almost every pay-per-view. With Lesnar, those numbers spiked. Why? UFC’s core audience still bought the show. What Lesnar brought was the pro wrestling fan, who might not otherwise care about MMA. I’m not sure that WWE is going to get the same crossover effect that it’s hoping for. Lesnar was a star in UFC, but he was the guy MMA fans loved to hate. The pro wrestler stepping into a real fight was an interesting storyline. Going the other way isn’t as exciting.
For wrestling fans, Lesnar’s return is an exciting twist and the possibilities of where it goes are endless. But from a business standpoint, if WWE is expecting Lesnar’s return to impact numbers the way his presence did with the UFC, I think they’ll be disappointed.